This week is Teen Driver Safety Week, and a new study shows that risky behavior for 16- and 17-year-old drivers grows as the number of teen-age passengers in their cars increase.
A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that 30 percent of drivers in that age group are likely to speed, but the percentage grows to 44 percent when there are two teen passengers and 48 when there are three or more.
The prevalence of alcohol use grows from 13 percent with no teen passengers to 18 percent when there are three or more. Teens also are more likely to drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. when they have passengers.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and risky behavior on the part of drivers increases the possibility of accidents.
From 2005 through 2010, 161 Maryland drivers age 16 and 17 were involved in fatal crashes, and 57 of those crashes included at least one teen-age passenger. AAA studies indicate that drivers in that age group are involved in seven times as many crashes per mile than drivers in their 40s, 50s and 60s.
Why are there more crashes? For one thing, potentially distracting loud conversation and horseplay are more common when there are teen-age passengers than with family members or adults.
Parent can help by becoming involved with their teens’ driving, particularly by limiting their access to an automobile at night.
Maryland places restrictions on all drivers under age 18, regardless of when they obtained their learner’s permits or provisional licenses. One prohibits provisional drivers from carrying passengers under the age of 18 (except for family members) during their first five months of licensure. Parents can log onto AAA.com/TeenDriving for advice on simplifying the learning-to-drive process.